A philosophical debate in the existence of absolute truth sounds like a discussion for theology class. In fact, that’s what has been taking place in one of the Bible classes I teach at our private Christian school. The questions we have been exploring are polar opposites of one another:
“Is there an absolute truth that is valid for all people regardless of era, culture or circumstance?”
“Are all things relative? Does truth exist only in the person’s individual experience and based in their view of reality?”
Deep, I know.
I’ve been thinking about this for some time in relation to personal finances. To fully disclose, I do believe in absolutes and think they can be found in many areas of life, especially in mathematics and the sciences. Absolutes do not have to be limited to theological discussions.
So why can’t there be absolutes about money and the personal finance world – things that are universally true for all people no matter the culture or circumstance?
You may be shaking your head at that idea ready to fire back the “personal finance is personal” line I read so much in the personal finance blogosphere. (Don’t come down on me too hard…I’ve said that phrase as well and believe it on many levels.) However, for someone like me who believes in absolutes, it’s tough to conceive there to be none in relation to money. There has to be at least one concept that everyone agrees to be true.
So I posed this question to my 10th and 11th grade personal finance class the other day – “Are there absolute truths when it comes to money and personal finance?”
After some debate, we came up with four such statements. Before I reveal those, here are some areas that were mentioned in class where we ultimately decided there was no consensus of absolute truth:
1. Whether debt is good or bad.
2. Using a credit card or a debit card and cash for purchases.
3. How much to put in an emergency saving fund.
4. Whether or not a monthly budget is necessary for success.
5. In what to invest (single stocks, index funds, managed mutual funds).
6. Home ownership – whether to rent or own.
7. Taking out loans for college.
8. Whether or not to combine finances in marriage.
9. Giving kids an allowance or making them work at home for money.
10. How much to carry for car, home, or life insurance.
11. How much is an adequate amount to save for retirement.
Each one of those is debatable, with good people disagreeing on which side of the fence to fall.
These next four statements however, represent what we determined to be absolute truths in relation to money, at least as close as we could possibly come:
1. If you continue to spend more than you make or have you will be broke.
2. You can’t take it with you.
3. Nothing is free. Everything costs something.
4. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
As I said previously, I can get on board with the ideal that many personal finance issues depend on the person’s situation. There are items on which people disagree as to the proper course to take. I’m inclined to think however, these last four statements represents absolutes on which we can all agree.
The class and I would love to hear your take on this topic.
Do you believe in absolutes in relation to money? Is there an argument to make against these four statements? Can you think of any more absolute truths that are universally accepted?
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